Deskbound, romancing the brick

Source: The New York Times

By Sarah Kershaw

Nov 03, 2009

The tarnishing of Wall Street and the breakout success of “Shop Class as Soulcraft” by Matthew B. Crawford, the Ph.D. who left academia to become a motorcycle repairman, are probably no coincidence.

As corporate America has shed millions of jobs, Mr. Crawford’s philosophical musings on the spirit-restoring value of working with his hands touched a big nerve, quickly becoming a national best seller and generating widespread publicity.

It was not the only sign that recession-pummeled Americans are indulging in a romance with blue-collar trades, while also questioning the hollowness of white-collar work.

Besides “Soulcraft,” whose subtitle is “An Inquiry Into the Value of Work,” Richard Sennett, a New York University sociologist, offered a tribute to artisans last year in “The Craftsman.” Reality shows like “Deadliest Catch,” featuring commercial crab fishermen, and “Ice Road Truckers,” following drivers hauling loads across frozen waters in northern Canada and Alaska, have drawn huge audiences.

The local-food movement has inspired countless people to plant vegetable gardens, while in California the so-called Maker Movement attracts tinkerers and people interested in crafts to festivals where they exchange tips about building and repairing thousands of things, from rewiring iPods to fixing bicycles. Not since the back-to-the-land days of the 1960s and ’70s has there been such a rose-colored view of working with your hands.

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